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Complementing Microsoft

The new PartnerPoint portal reaches out to partners by offering services that supplement the Microsoft Partner Program.

If you need advice on how to take your Microsoft partnership to the next level, you're not alone. Many partners struggle to navigate Microsoft's array of partner resources and cultivate the relationships needed to get those all-important business referrals.

Enter PartnerPoint.com, a new, independent Web portal devoted to helping Microsoft partners get the most out their relationship with Redmond. The registration-based community offers its current base of 1,700 members a number of services, including an ISV showcase, recruiting support and answers to questions about anything Microsoft-related via chat, e-mail and phone.

PartnerPoint is the brainchild of Founder and President Brian Ocheltree, who saw the need for a portal that complements Microsoft's program. "Our goal is to become a trusted advisor to the largest online Microsoft partner community," he said. With his background in Web applications and knowledge of the inner workings of the Microsoft partner community, he may be in a position to fulfill his vision.

Prior to starting PartnerPoint, Ocheltree was CEO of e.magination, a Gold Certified consulting company and solution provider in Baltimore. As leader of the company's Microsoft partner initiative, he said it took a good two years to really learn the ins and outs of what Microsoft offers.

Ocheltree considered sharing the knowledge he gained during that time through a consulting business but said he'd much rather share it on a larger scale, which the portal format allows.

Brian Ocheltree

"Our goal is to become a trusted advisor to the largest online Microsoft partner community."

Brian Ocheltree, Founder and President, PartnerPoint

While the site officially ended its beta period in August, Ocheltree said it's still a work in progress, continually evolving based on member feedback. The company is currently working on creating lead-generating services, for example, and it just launched a profile tool that allows members to include information not generally available through Microsoft's Partner Resource Directory, such as minority business status, contract status and top five customers. "We [give members] the chance to link over to their record in the Microsoft Resource Directory, so it's supplemental; it's not in replacement of it," he explained.

The site also offers a place for partners to list and publicize the skills of their technical staffers, so that others—including Microsoft—can find them. Ocheltree said it's a way to help build relationships with Microsoft and others.

Ocheltree is quick to point out that none of PartnerPoint's services are intended to compete with what Microsoft offers, which he called the best in the world. "No one is doing what Microsoft is doing for its partners," he said.

PartnerPoint Features
  • Group Discounts: Volume discount offers for common vendors.
  • ISV Showcase: Online directory of more than 250 Microsoft ISV products.
  • MSResources: A directory of skilled personnel for hire.
  • MSSurvey: A hosted survey tool for members to create and deploy custom surveys.
  • Partner2Partner: A service for partners to request and supply support for one another.
  • PartnerProfile: An online directory of Microsoft partner profiles.
  • Partner Support: Answers to any Microsoft-related questions.
  • Recruiting Support: A job board for partners to post open positions.
  • Useful Microsoft Resources: List of links to Microsoft resources for partners.

And for now, all of the PartnerPoint services are free for members. Ocheltree did try to implement a monthly member fee in August, but quickly retracted it.

While he openly admitted that there is currently no set revenue model for the site, he says the company, with its 15 employees, is funded well enough that he can focus on his long-term vision, which was inspired by a former client: the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

"The thing that really impressed me about [the AARP] is the relationship they've created with their members," he explained. "It's amazing. Their members really see them as a trusted advisor, which is why I think they're such a strong lobbying arm.

"If we can create that kind of relationship with 5,000 or 10,000 active partners, I believe this would have tremendous value not only to Microsoft, but also to third parties [and] our members," he continued. "And that's what we're banking on, through the hard work that we're doing now, that we [will] have that value at the end of the day."

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the executive editor of the 1105 Redmond Media Group's Web sites, including Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com, RedDevNews.com and VisualStudioMagazine.com, among others.

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